Kobe Bryant eclipses Dominique Wilkins on the NBA's all-time scoring list
With sweat dripping down his face as he chewed gum profusely, Lakers guard Kobe Bryant seemed oblivious to it all.
During a timeout of what became the Lakers' 108-83 victory Tuesday over the Detroit Pistons, Lakers public address announcer Lawrence Tanter revealed to the Staples Center crowd that Bryant eclipsed Dominique Wilkins for 10th place on the NBA's all-time scoring list. Yet, Bryant didn't move an inch. He maintained a stoic expression. His eyes didn't dart at all. And he continued chewing gum at a fast rate.
Clearly, Bryant's mind is on other things right now.
"It's one of those things you kind of look at in hindsight when it's all over and said and done," said Bryant, whose 17 points puts him with 26,671 career points. "You're so concerned with winning a championship that you don't think about it too much."
But don't think for a second this doesn't anything to Bryant, though he argued he would've gone to college instead of jumping to the NBA in 1996 from Lower Merion High School outside Philadelphia had he been consumed with setting individual records. With his memory of watching Wilkins' highlight reel dunks growing up and even attempting to replicating them in his backyard on a "six foot hoop," Bryant illustrates his student-of-the-game mentality. "I still in my prime couldn't do things Dominique was doing," said Bryant, who surpassed Wilkins' mark after driving in for a layup with 6:43 remaining in the third quarter. "That's just unbelievable stuff."
It's nothing more unbelievable than what Bryant's accomplishing, with Lakers Coach Phil Jackson describing the milestone as "another credit and another notch in his belt so to speak in his long, storied career." Longtime teammate Derek Fisher remarked, "It's humbling to think this is a guy that I've spent most of my career playing alongside of and he deserves everything he gets in terms of accomplishments. The scary part about it is he's not done. He's going to close the gap pretty good between 1 and 10 at a pretty fast rate in the next couple of years."
Next up on the list includes Oscar Robertson, whom Bryant trails by 39 points and should surpass that mark Friday when the Lakers host the New Orleans Hornets or maybe even today when the Lakers visit the Phoenix Suns. Assuming Bryant maintains his 25.4 points per game average and plays the final 47 games of the regular season, he will finish 2010-11 with 27,863 points. That would put him him sixth all-time behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (38,387), Karl Malone (36,928), Michael Jordan (32,292), Wilt Chamberlain (31,419) and Shaquille O'Neal (28,500 and counting).
But days before Bryant surpassed him as the Lakers' all-time leading scorer, Jerry West predicted Bryant would finish even higher, scoring at least 30,000 points.
"Health is an issue and then age," West said at the time. There's one opponent you can't defeat and that's age. He will try that, by the way."
For now, however, Bryant's managing to do so, even if his on-court language shows he's currently not thinking about it.